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CBI: Poor British transport hampers economic growth

The UK's transport network is so poor it is 'undermining the long-term competitiveness of business' according to new research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The report: Time to change gear? rates our road network as 'poor', with both capacity and reliability in decline; but our rail network as 'satisfactory' for reliability and capacity but improving. Airports are rated 'poor' for capacity and getting worse, but 'satisfactory' for reliability.

CBI Deputy Director-General, John Cridland, said: "We need a transport system fit for the needs of the 21st Century – faster, more reliable, and lower-carbon.

"When the upturn in the economy comes, poor transport must not be allowed to hold UK business back. But how do we get there in the current economic climate, and where do we get the money to fund the essential improvements we need?" he asked.

The CBI have assembled a 5-point action plan they say will make: "a real difference to the UK’s transport network, if implemented by the Government":

  1. Keep the transport budget at the level outlined in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, of 2.25% growth per year to 2018/19

  2. Promote and invite private investment in transport

  3. Establish how alternative pricing structures can be used to help congestion and encourage investment

  4. End the endless rounds of consultation and deliver a long-term transport plan

  5. Remove barriers to the delivery of transport projects by implementing the Planning Act and national policy statements.

"First, the government needs a more coherent and consistent delivery plan. The numerous strategy documents it has published in recent years do not amount to an effective and convincing route map. Second, we must harness private investment to develop the transport network people want for the future. Third, let’s see if there is a way to change people’s travel patterns to ease some of the problems in the short-term," said Cridland.

In conjunction with the report, the CBI has established a transport group of business leaders to investigate and promote innovation in transport.

Arup chairman Terry Hill will chair the new group. He said: "A reliable transport network which is able to cope with increasing demand is vital if the UK is to hold its own with European competitors.

"Financing major infrastructure projects will be more difficult during a recession. But this new group will explore how we better engage with the private sector in long-term investment in such projects, not just in designing and building, but operating them too," he said.

The group will consider two questions:

  • Can private finance help deliver new and improved transport links in the long-term;

  • What incentives could change people's behaviour and travel patterns reduce congestion and cut pollution in the short-term?

And is tasked with suggesting new ways that investment and innovation can be injected into the current transport system and will report back to the CBI by the end of the year.

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